Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action
Drawings and paintings from key international collections shed new light on pivotal Florentine artist
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles
June 23–September 13, 2015
The Frick Collection, New York
October 7, 2015–January 10, 2016
Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action comprises nearly 50 drawings and four paintings, many on loan from some of the world’s leading museums, including the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Louvre in Paris, and the National Gallery and British Museum in London. These works capture the fundamentals of Renaissance invention and highlight the vital role played by drawing in del Sarto’s paintings.
Moving beyond the graceful harmony and elegance of his better-known elders and contemporaries such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Fra Bartolommeo, Andrea del Sarto brought unprecedented naturalism and immediacy to his art through the rough and rustic use of red chalk. His powerful life studies enabled him to transform everyday people into saints and Madonnas, and smirking children into angels. This exhibition looks behind the scenes at del Sarto’s entire creative process, using the latest technologies to show the underdrawing and workshop activity behind his paintings, studying his re-use of drawings, and highlighting his constant dazzling inventiveness.
“The appeal of drawings derives in no small part from their ability to transport the viewer to the very moment of artistic creation. To do this with an artist whose work was at the very core of the Renaissance in Florence is mesmerizing,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The Getty Museum is fortunate to own four drawings by Andrea del Sarto, the most of any North American collection, and this exhibition allows us to show them alongside loans from major institutions around the world. The result comes as close as is possible to a 360-degree view of del Sarto’s creative process, from the first spark of inspiration in his compositional sketches, through the intensely naturalistic drawings of faces and figures in which he develops the authenticity of his subjects, to his final rendering of scenes in paint.”
Only about 180 of del Sarto’s drawings survive today, and these are crucial to comprehending the genesis of his paintings and the range of his creative process. They vary from sketched ideas thrown down on the sheet to detailed figure studies, and they show that del Sarto made drawings on paper at every stage in the process of making his numerous panel paintings and frescoes. They also reveal a fertile mind constantly generating compositions to further develop or reject. The spark of creation for all of his works started with sketches on paper.
Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action combines drawings with some of the completed paintings they informed, allowing viewers to see his remarkable ability to transform closely observed nature—as recorded in his drawings—into believable visions in paint.
REINTRODUCING THE ARTIST
Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530), a draftsman and painter, led one of the most successful and productive workshops in Florence, Italy, during the High Renaissance, leaving his native city filled with his frescoes and panel paintings. In their combination of piety and verisimilitude these works were widely influential across Europe, while del Sarto’s distinctive drawing style resonated not only with artists during the period, but also with a wide range of later figures including Edgar Degas and Odilon Redon. Although his body of work is well known to scholars, artists, and collectors today, it is now less known by the wider public.
The son of a tailor (sarto in Italian), Andrea del Sarto began his formal training at the age of seven with a goldsmith, but his particular skill in drawing soon brought him into one of the most important workshops in Florence, that of Piero di Cosimo, who delighted in del Sarto’s assiduous study and intuitive handling of color. Del Sarto went on to study with Raffaellino del Garbo before joining the guild of the Arte dei Medici e degli Speziali (the Art of Physicians and Apothecaries) in 1508. His studio grew as he garnered commissions and earned a reputation; his many pupils included Jacopo Pontormo, Francesco Salviati, and Giorgio Vasari.
From the beginning of his career, del Sarto’s work integrated numerous influences: the naturalism and sfumato of Leonardo, the playful humor and attention to detail of Piero di Cosimo, the harmony and balance of Raphael, and the darkly powerful shadowed eye sockets found in the work of close contemporaries such as Franciabigio and Puligo.
Del Sarto’s careful observation of life resulted in astonishingly naturalistic religious works that effectively conveyed his deep piety. While best known for these religious works, del Sarto was also one of the most accomplished portrait artists of the Florentine Renaissance, influencing a generation of successors and many painters through the centuries. Bold compositions combined with verisimilitude conveyed his sitters as dynamic, living, breathing beings. The success of his portraits derived from his close study of human facial expression, mood, temperament, and body language; his additional use of such studies for figures in altarpieces blurred the distinction between the genre of portraiture and religious subjects.
“Such a group of works by this pivotal Florentine Renaissance artist has never been seen in the U.S. before. They demonstrate why Andrea del Sarto was so hugely admired in his own day, and now give us a whole new understanding of the way Renaissance masterpieces were created,” says Julian Brooks, curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Technology allows us to bring his work into focus in a way we couldn’t previously; we can see its full evolution from the very first idea to the last-minute adjustments as he worked on the painting."
New developments in infrared reflectogram technology give visitors a look beneath the surface of del Sarto’s paintings with a clarity never before possible. What is revealed is the underdrawing beneath the layers of paint, showing cartoon (the Italian cartone, meaning “large sheet of paper”) transfer lines that reveal bold changes of mind. To further illuminate del Sarto’s process, the exhibition will also demonstrate studio tricks such as the re-use of drawings and motifs, while highlighting his constant dazzling inventiveness. One gallery focuses on the process and underlying techniques behind two superlative examples of del Sarto’s work: the unfinished Sacrifice of Isaac and the iconic Medici Holy Family, works now studied in this depth for the first time.
Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action is co-organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and The Frick Collection, New York, in association with the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence. Generous support for the exhibition was provided by an anonymous donor in memory of Melvin R. Seiden. Additional support was provided by the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles. The exhibition is curated by Julian Brooks, curator of drawings at the Getty, with Aimee Ng, associate curator at The Frick. The exhibition is on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, from June 23–September 13, 2015 before traveling to The Frick Collection, New York, where it will be on view from October 7, 2015–January 10, 2016.
A richly illustrated scholarly catalogue will be published by the Getty to complement the exhibition, with contributions from an international team of Renaissance scholars and drawings experts.
Related programming will include lectures, curator gallery talks, a drawings hour, a symposium, and more. Additional information can be found at getty.edu.
The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts, and photographs gathered internationally. The Museum's mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.
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